An early end to the trip
21 July 2007 | Ardfern
Pretty good really, compared with the English floods
Oh boy, what a rolly night! Yet we both slept very well. The wind was veering towards the north east, which in Armadale is the worst direction for fetch and roll, as the moorings are not sheltered in any way from the Sound of Sleat. Getting into the dinghy with the dog was very tricky, as the swell bounced it all over the place, and the dog would not jump in until I was in it first, holding it as best I could to the toerail. I rowed in round the pier wall into the calm of the pontoon, and walked the dog up past the youth hostel. Visibility wasn't wonderful, I noticed, and rain would not be far away. The wind was going to be favourable for our passage south, but we couldn't make a start on it until Mark arrived with the gas bottle, and replenshings for our water and diesel on board. We love coming here, as Mark simply tows a long freshwater hose out to the boat on the mooring, and pumps diesel into the tank from his small tender.
When he arrived after nine thirty, by which time the Manx yacht on the next mooring had decided enough rolly polly was enough and left, the news on the gas bottle was bad - the shop didn't have any. So we stowed the empty one again, and took on water and diesel only. Then we dodged the pushmepullyou ferry Loch Coruisk as it arrived in Armadale, and headed out into the sound, pulled out the genoa, turned off the engine, and sailed south. The weather closed in behind us and visibility was not good in that direction. But amazingly, as we reached the Point of Sleat and headed down towards Eigg, we looked to the right and we could see Barra and South Uist clearly on the horizon, over thirty miles away! Soon after that we spotted a minke whale swimming past us, blowing as it went.
Slowly Eigg slipped past on the starboard bow, and then Muck, then Ardnamurchan on the port bow, then mist set in all around us, and we steered by the compass and the chartplotter, to close in on Coll. The distance from the cairns of Coll at the north to the entrance to Loch Eatharna, and Arinagour where we planned to moor or anchor for the night, seemed never-ending, although the log showed that we were covering the distance at the usual rate of around 5.5 knots, but visibility was so poor that it felt as though we were going nowhere.
Finally through the mist we thought we saw the green buoy that marks the entrance, and homed in on that. Then it disappeared again! The second time we found it we locked on to it properly, and were soon motoring up the loch, and boggling at the number of yachts, fifteen in all, which had the same thought as us, to spend the night in this anchorage sheltered from the north easterly wind. As there are only six moorings, most boats were anchored, so after one false start we put down the new Rocna anchor clear of the fairway, and settled in for the evening.
Ju took Tessie ashore, and we had a quiet afternoon reading, then I started to prepare the evening meal, which was pasta with a chorizo sauce. As I was doing that, Ju decided to do a spot of fishing, as she had noticed movement in the water which suggested that fish were about. She had hardly put the mackerel feathers in the water when she hauled them back out again, with four fish attached. I helped her put them in the bucket and remove the hooks - one was actually hooked through its back, not its mouth! Then she cast again and brought up another four, of which one dropped back into the water. So there we were, seven mackerel in five minutes, two casts! One of the fish was the largest mackerel either of us has ever caught!
We had dinner, then Ju walked Tessie ashore again, then we took out the smoker, set it up and put the mackerel fillets into it. Half an hour later the meths burners finally went out, and the fish were beautifully hot-smoked. We left them to cool, then put them away in two lock 'n' lock boxes, to do lunch for two days. Another Rival, a 36, was anchored next to us, and we all settled down to a calm night, with the wind lessening dramatically, but veering to the south east - just the wrong direction for that harbour, as the fetch reaches all the way to the Treshnish Isles, but we got away with it in 2 to 3 knot breezes all night.
A lovely morning, so we set off after breakfast to go to the small island of Gometra, on the west coast of Mull, passing the Treshnish Isles on the way. At lunchtime I hove the boat to, sitting where I could lean against the tiller to keep it steady, and we had smoked mackerel and bread and butter. It was absolutely delicious! We carried on, beating towards Lunga, the largest island in the group, then motored for fifty minutes or so to pass through the gap between it and the Dutchman's Cap, and then motorsailed towards Gometra as the wind died away. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the sea was flat calm. We were the first boat into the anchorage at the south of Gometra, and we savoured the isolation and beauty of the place for all of half an hour before the first of five other boats arrived and anchored round the small bay. But everyone was in the spell of the place as much as we were, and it remained quiet, one of the most peaceful anchorages of our trip.
Another lovely morning, with little or no wind. So we upped the anchor and motored south towards the Sound of Iona. This was the first time we had gone through the Sound, so we had spent some considerable time looking at pilot books, plotting waypoints and entering them onto the GPS, and we felt ready to negotiate this tricky stretch of water, which has some very shallow patches in it. All went well until I spotted that one of the waypoints was not looking right, and Ju scuttled down below to double check coordinates. I had entered it wringly into the GPS apparently. So she fixed that, and we continued our journey, with my eye rarely leaving the depth meter, as it read alarmingly low numbers. Another waypoint was wrong, which didn't help. We motored past the entrance to Bull Hole and spotted Jane-O's cottage, and then towards Foinnphort where a multitude of tourists and tourist buses and cars were milling about waiting for the Iona ferry, and I looked behind us at one of the other boats from Gometra anchorage. It was apparently ignoring all the shallow patches and barrelling down the sound under full sail, right down the middle!
When we were clear of buoys and rocks, we hoisted sail also and followed our planned track to pass clear of the Torran Rocks. The wind gradually went directly behind us, so I had the dilemma of whether or not to use the cruising chute. Instead I opted to rig a preventer on the main, and pole out the genoa, which we reefed slightly as our pole is a bit small. We pootled along nicely in this fashion for some while, passing one of the two new cardinal buoys. Another amazing smoked mackerel lunch followed, then I noticed a yacht motoring towards us at approximately 45 degrees on a collision course. I watched, fascinated, as it got nearer and nearer. With a preventer rigged and a poled-out genoa, my options were limited, but I was definitely under sail! He was motoring! Didn't he have a copy of the colregs aboard? Hadn't he read them? He came on and on, and I could see that he was in the cockpit, and could see us plainly, but still no alteration of course. When he was within fifty metres of hitting us, I pulled the tiller towards me and went parallel to him for a little, and he carried straight on across our bows, missing us by about twenty metres. Ju waved at them, but I couldn't even bring myself to look at them as they went by. I won't name the boat here, but they know who they are!
We were heading for a small anchorage called Ardalanish, which Sam had told us about during our weekend on the gaff-rigged pilot cutter Ezra. We hadn't thought there were any good anchorages on the Ross of Mull, but this one looked good. We found our way in, but not before the only shower in miles hit us spectacularly so fast we didn't have time to put on our oilies. From bright sunshine to soaked to the skin in two minutes! Wow! The sea looked pockmarked! We dropped the Rocna right in the middle of the small anchorage, and tried to guess how many other boats would join us. Ju took Tessie ashore in the afternoon, quite a difficult landing as it is all rocks, and took her boots and socks off to get on to the rocks. I looked over a little later and she was haning a brief dip in the water. Very nice!
As time went by another five boats arrived. One, from France, anchored so close to us I was moved to go up the deck and ask if they didn't think they were a bit close. A chance to practise my French, I thought. They were fine about it, asked me how much chain we had out, and said they had the same, and we should all be fine but they would keep an eye on it, as the wind was forecast to go round to the east during the night.
Later one of the six men aboard brought us over a bottle of claret, as a gift, to apologise for causing us concern. And while Ju was ashore with Tessie they did move their anchor forward about twent metres, so we were OK after all.
A quiet night, and I woke up to realise Ju wasn't there. She appeared in the doorway and informed me that she coudln't put her weight on her right foot, her foot was painful, and she had been up since four unable to sleep because of the pain. There was nothing to see really except a couple of scratches on the side of the foot, no swelling, no inflammation. I got up and boiled a kettle, and got her to put her foot in a warm bath. It seemed to help a little. But not much.
I took the decision to head home, as I felt that the injury required medical attention, and the Ross of Mull is pretty remote from any possible source of help in that direction. So I took Tessie ashore, then streamed the dinghy, and we set off under engine. I had reckoned that if we could make Fladda by 12 or 12.30 we could get through the Dorus.
The wind was easterly and not very strong, but we did 5.5 through the water, and the tide along the Ross of Mull gave us a boost so we did 6.1 over the ground, and so there was no problem. Ju went below and slept a little, and when she came up we were nearly past Belnahua.
I left her on the helm as we went down the Sound of Luing at 11 knots, and I made some lunch. So that was how our holiday trip ended, with Ju having another foot bath once we were safely on our home mooring, and then with me driving her to A&E in Lochgilphead, from where she emerged on crutches with her foot bound up in bandages, and an instruction to come back in the morning for an X-ray. We stopped for fish and chips on the way home. End of the holiday!